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February 25, 2004
Can you help me? I type to a trusted friend in Ohio. I said I would do something and now I can't remember who I said it to or what I said I would do. Or when it is. I think it had something to do with Columbus. Might you know?

How embarrassing.

I reflexively save all this stuff into something called a "filing cabinet," but it seems to seep out of the filing cabinet when I'm not looking. Where does it go? I guess I must have the same problem with this virtual filing cabinet that I had with the clunky old metal ones of yore -- I really don't know how to file.

Today I will receive a smudge of ash on my forehead -- Remember that you are dust, the priest will say. Oh, I remember all right. I remember that part. I don't remember where I put my glasses or when I'm going to Ohio or why. I can't find my cold cream, and I just bought it. I don't remember what you said to me on the phone yesterday. But I remember that I am dust.

My forgetting is part of my being dust. My powers are failing a bit, some of them. It is frustrating enough to make me weep, consistent enough to make me fear for the future.

But Jesus was driven into the wilderness in order to learn to depend on God. Tempted to lean on other things, things that can all be taken away, He was steadfast. He remembered who He was and who He was not, and He remembered who God was. And all the things with which He was tempted were, indeed, taken away, and He was left with nothing. As I will be, and you will be. We come into this world with nothing, and it is certain we can take nothing out.

That which God requires of me, I can do. The sixth person in a row sits across from me, and I find that I can remember completely the complex of issues we discussed last time. This can only be because the Lord has need of it. I stand to preach, and I have something to say. This can only be because the Lord does not intend seven hundred people to come and go without having heard anything of use. In the sacristy afterward, I cannot find my purse, and turn the church upside down for fifteen minutes before it appears behind the door, where I left it. A familiar self-loathing descends on me: What is wrong with you? a bitter voice sneers. I am alone in the room. It must have been the devil.

I have an answer to his question. Plenty is wrong with me. It's not hard to see what. But as wrong as those things are, more is right with the God who loves me and has chosen me to be here and to do what I can do. God will care for me and those for whom I care, and God is stronger than you will ever be. And, when the time comes, God will give me the grace to know my work is finished, to step back and let another take my place. Because I am dust, and to dust I shall return.
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